About Thomas Guy and Sir Robert Clayton
Who were Sir Robert Clayton and Thomas Guy? Who were the artists who created the statues? And what is the Foundation's role in their conservation?
Read about the conservation work on statues of two of our benefactors, and our work to better understand and contextualise their histories.
Guy’s & St Thomas’ Foundation is an independent charitable foundation. We have been working in the boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark for over 500 years.
We exist to build the foundations of a healthier society that helps everyone stay healthier, for longer. We do this in a range of ways, collaborating with our communities, partners and hospitals. We use our assets to take a long-term view, while addressing the real and urgent health issues of today. This includes our work with patients and staff as the charity for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.
The statues of Thomas Guy (1644-1724) and Sir Robert Clayton (1629-1707) are part of our art collection. In 2020, we commissioned independent historical research. The research confirmed both men profited significantly from the trade of enslaved African people.
We know many health inequalities that exist today are linked to structural racism stemming from the inhumane trade of enslaved people. We see it in our work to tackle health inequalities facing people in this borough and beyond. Until now, information about Guy and Clayton only focused on their philanthropy. It did not reveal their connections to the trade of enslaved people and the origins of their wealth in racial slavery. Through this work, we have set out to acknowledge and change this.
As part of our work, we manage one of the largest health-related art collections in Europe. The collection has been built over centuries. Just over half of it is on display across Guy’s, St Thomas’ and Evelina London hospitals and community sites. The art enhances spaces for patients, staff and visitors.
In our art collection are two statues, one of Thomas Guy (1644-1724) and one of Sir Robert Clayton (1629-1707). They stand on land owned by King’s College London and the NHS Foundation Trust respectively. Both men made financial contributions that helped found and develop St Thomas’ and Guy’s hospitals and the Foundation.
Global racial justice protests in 2020 intensified the spotlight on statues of individuals with connections to the trade of enslaved people in the public realm.
This prompted us to take a deeper look at the statues of Guy and Clayton that are part of our art collection. In 2020, we commissioned independent historical research. The research confirmed both men profited significantly from the trade of enslaved African people.
We also commissioned independent community consultation. This was to understand people’s views on the statues. The consultation raised important themes around:
Find out more on the interpretation process - what we've done, who has been involved, and a timeline of the interpretation process. Read the panels, in their setting at the statues' location in London. Learn about Thomas Guy and Sir Robert Clayton and their ties to Guy's and St Thomas' hospital.
The Foundation’s board of Trustees committed to keep both statues on display in public. This is in line with current government policy and advice from Historic England. The Foundation’s board also decided to add information panels alongside both statues. This helps people to consider how to interpret the statues. The information panels explain how both men made their wealth and their connections with the trade of enslaved people.
The Foundation is like many British institutions that began in the 16th and 17th centuries. Our history is connected to England’s colonial expansion. It is connected to the trade of enslaved African people. We know many health inequalities that exist today are linked to structural racism stemming from the inhumane trade of enslaved people. For example, Black residents in Lambeth and Southwark live up to nine years less in full health compared with white residents.
As part of our mission, we believe we have a duty to address the legacy of the origins of our wealth: colonialism, racism and the trade of enslaved people. We need to understand the impact of these on health and healthcare today.
This work is an important part of our wider mission to build the foundations of a healthier society. As part of this, our work is to tackle the health inequalities facing people living in Lambeth and Southwark.
We will keep listening to the people and communities affected by the legacy of the trade of enslaved people and structural racism. We will continue to consider what this means for our work as a Foundation investing in a healthier society. We need to ensure that our actions today leave behind a fair and equitable legacy.
We will learn from engagement with the material we have produced and feedback we receive, to enrich our website to more fully tell the stories of these statues and what they represent. Please share your feedback with us through this form.
If you’d like to learn more about the statues, our conservation and interpretation process, or to give feedback, please get in touch via our form.